Protecting Your Plumbing From Cold Weather: Tips for Vacant Properties

Did you know that an estimated 250,000 homes each year in the United States alone suffer significant water damage from burst pipes? We’re not talking minor inconveniences here, but severe, costly damage that can render a property uninhabitable. And if you think this is only a concern for those living in their homes during the chilliest months, you’re mistaken. Vacant properties are even more susceptible, as they often lack the regular heating that can prevent pipes from freezing.

So, what can we do to protect our vacant properties from this chilling risk? Stay with us, as we navigate through some essential tips and strategies.

Winterizing Your Vacant Property’s Plumbing

To protect your vacant property’s plumbing system during the frosty winter months, we’ll need to take several key steps to effectively winterize it. It’s not as daunting as it sounds, and we’ll guide you through the process.

Turn off the water supply to prevent any water from entering the system. With the water supply off, we’ll then drain the pipes. We’ll open all the faucets, flush the toilets, and drain the water heaters. By doing so, we’re ensuring no water remains in the system that could potentially freeze, expand, and cause damage.

Next, we’ll pay attention to vulnerable areas, such as outdoor hose bibs, sprinkler systems, and swimming pool supply lines. We’ll drain these and insulate them to prevent them from freezing. We’ll also check the property for any uninsulated pipes, especially those in unheated areas like basements, garages, or crawl spaces. We’ll wrap these with pipe insulation or heat tape to provide an extra layer of protection.

Then, we’ll apply antifreeze to drains, toilets, and other fixtures to prevent any remaining water from freezing. But remember, we’ll use non-toxic antifreeze designed for plumbing systems, not the type used in cars.

Finally, we’ll seal off any vents, windows, or doors in the property to prevent drafts which can lead to freezing temperatures. We’ll also set the property’s thermostat to a temperature above freezing, generally around 55°F, to ensure any residual heat keeps the pipes above freezing temperatures.

In following these steps, we’ll ensure that your property’s plumbing system is well-protected against the harsh winter temperatures.

Essential Plumbing Maintenance Checks

After safeguarding the property against winter damage, let’s now focus on some essential plumbing maintenance checks that can help ensure the longevity of your system.

Regular inspections and maintenance are vital for preventing costly issues down the line, especially in vacant properties that aren’t regularly monitored.

We’ll want to check for any leaks. These can often go unnoticed until they’ve caused significant damage. Look for signs of moisture around pipes, faucets, and toilets. Don’t forget to inspect less visible areas, such as basements or crawl spaces.

Next, we should test the water pressure. Low pressure could indicate a leak or blockage in the system. A simple gauge attached to an outdoor faucet can measure this accurately.

A crucial check is the water heater. It’s best to drain and refill it annually to prevent sediment from building up and reducing its efficiency. Also, we should verify that its temperature setting is no higher than 120°F to avoid potential scalding and save energy.

Let’s not neglect the sewer system. Regularly cleaning and inspecting the sewer line can help avoid unpleasant surprises. If you notice slow drains or frequent backups, it might be time to call a professional.

Preventive Measures for Frozen Pipes

While these maintenance checks are vital, we can’t overlook the potential danger of frozen pipes, especially in vacant properties during the cold weather months. Frozen pipes can lead to bursts, causing significant water damage and costly repairs. Therefore, it’s crucial to take preventive measures.

Firstly, we recommend insulating your pipes. This can be done using foam pipe insulation, which is both affordable and easy to install. This insulation not only prevents freezing but also helps to reduce heat loss from hot water pipes.

Secondly, consider installing heat tape around your pipes. This tape emits heat when plugged into an electrical source, providing additional protection against freezing. However, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions closely to prevent fire hazards.

Draining the water system can also be an effective preventive measure. If a property is going to be vacant for an extended period, we suggest shutting off the water supply and draining the pipes. This removes the water that could freeze within the pipes.

Furthermore, keep the property heated, even when it’s vacant. Maintaining a constant temperature of around 55 degrees Fahrenheit can prevent pipes from freezing.

Lastly, if your property has exterior faucets, make sure to disconnect any hoses and turn off the water supply to these faucets. Water in hoses can freeze and back up into the pipes, causing them to burst.

Responding to Cold Weather Plumbing Emergencies

Despite our best efforts, sometimes plumbing emergencies due to cold weather are inevitable and we’re left with the task of managing these unexpected situations swiftly and effectively. The moment we realize there’s a problem, our immediate response can make a world of difference.

Firstly, we must act quickly to shut off the water supply. This step helps to minimize the damage, especially if there’s a burst pipe. Then, we’ll need to identify the source of the problem. If it’s a frozen pipe that’s burst, we’ll usually find it near an outside wall or in a crawl space where it’s more exposed to the cold.

Once we’ve found the source, we should assess the damage. If it’s minor, we might be able to repair it ourselves, using a pipe patch kit or heat tape. But if it’s extensive, it’s time to call in a professional plumber. We shouldn’t risk making the problem worse by taking on a task that’s beyond our skill level.

In the meantime, we can take steps to prevent further freezing. We can open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around the pipes, and let a trickle of water run from the faucets to keep the water moving. We should also keep the property’s heat on, even if it’s vacant, to help prevent other pipes from freezing.